Although there have been various explanations for his stage name, according to his official website, his name started when his father called him “Meat” as a two-year-old. His schoolmates would later turn it into Meat Loaf as it has the same initials as his real name, M.L. In high school, he was on the football team until his senior year when his coach made him decide between being in the school play, “Plain and Fancy” and being on the team. Meat Loaf chose the school play.
After attending college at Lubbock Christian College, Meat Loaf transferred to North Texas State University. While there he was called in for an Army physical which he tried to fail by gaining sixty-eight pounds in four and a half weeks. They determined that he was fit despite being color blind, having a trick shoulder and being very concussion prone (he’s had seventeen of them). When his draft notice arrived two years later, he ignored it. In 1967, after seeing his mother wasting away in a hospital bed, Meat Loaf left Texas and moved to Los Angeles, where he became a bouncer at a teenage nightclub.
In Los Angeles, he formed his first band, Meat Loaf Soul. During the recording of their first song, Meat Loaf hit a big note and blew the board. It left quite an impression because he was offered three recording contracts on the spot. Unfortunately, he turned them all down. Meat Loaf Soul's first gig was in Huntington Beach at the Cave, opening up for them, Van Morrison's band. During their singing of cover of The Yardbirds’ “Smokestack Lightning”, the smoke machine they used made too much smoke and the club had to be cleared out. Then they were the opening act at California State University, Northridge for Renaissance, Taj Mahal and Janis Joplin. The band then underwent several changes at lead guitar, changing the name of the band each time - Popcorn Blizzard, Floating Circus. As Floating Circus, they opened for The Who, The Fugs, The Stooges, MC5, Grateful Dead and The Grease Band. Their regional success led them to release a single, "Once Upon a Time”, backed with “Hello”.
After the break up of Floating Circus, Meat Loaf had several odd jobs, including being a body guard for Question Mark. Having no steady work, Meat Loaf decided to get a job as a parking lot attendant with a friend of his. A man pulled up in the parking lot that Meat Loaf thought might be the guy that was going to hire him. The man asked Meat Loaf what he did beside parking cars and Meat Loaf told him that he was a singer. The guy said that he should come in a audition for Hair. Not being prepared, Meat Loaf told the piano player to play the sixteen-bar blues in C. After singing the first sixteen-bars of “The World is Alright, It’s the People that Make It Bad”, they asked him to stop and to come see the show that night because they wanted to hire him to sing “Aquarius”, play General Ulysses S. Grant and the Young Recruit. When he went to the show that night, for some reason the sprinklers came on half way through and ended the show. Meat Loaf went on to do the show in Los Angeles and then for a six-month run in Detroit, Michigan.
Meat Loaf, because of the publicity generated from Hair was invited to record with Motown. They suggested that he do a duet with Stoney Murphy and he agreed. They were given songs written by Motown’s production team in charge of the album and only came in to lay down their vocals. The album, titled Stoney and Meatloaf (Meatloaf being shown as one word), was completed in the summer of 1971 and released in September of that year. A single was released in advanced of the album, titled What You See is What You Get, managed to get to number thirty six on the R&B charts and seventy-one on Billboard Hot 100 chart. To support their album, Meat Loaf and Stoney toured with Jake Wade and the Soul Searchers, opening up for Richie Havens, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper and Rare Earth.
After the tour, Meat Loaf rejoined the cast of Hair, this time on Broadway. After he hired an agent, he auditioned for the Public Theater’s production of More Than You Deserve. It was during the audition that Meat Loaf first met his future collaborator, Jim Steinman. Meat Loaf got the part of Rabbit, a maniac that blows up his fellow soldiers so they can “go home”. Also in the show were Ron Silver and Fred Gwynne. After it closed he appeared in "As You Like It" with Raul Julia and Mary Beth Hurt.
During the winter of 1973, after returning from a short production of Rainbow in New York in Washington, D.C., Meat Loaf received a call asking him to be in The Rocky Horror Show where he played both the parts of Eddie and Dr. Scott. The success of the play led to the filming of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where Meat Loaf just played Eddie. About the same time, Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman started work on Bat Out of Hell. Meat Loaf convinced Epic Records to shoot videos for four songs, “Bat Out of Hell”, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. He then convinced Lou Adler, the producer of Rocky Horror, to run the “Paradise” video as a trailer to the movie. Meat Loaf's final show in New York was Gower Champion’s Rock-a-bye Hamlet, a Hamlet musical. It closed two weeks into its initial run.
Meat Loaf and Steinman started Bat Out of Hell in 1972, but didn’t really get serious about it until the end of 1974. Meat Loaf decided that he wasn’t going to do any more theater and concentrate only on the record. Then, the National Lampoon Show opened on Broadway and they needed an understudy for John Belushi, a close friend of Meat Loaf. He and Belushi had become friends in 1972 when they were doing Lemmings at the Village Gate. It was at the Lampoon Show that Meat Loaf met Ellen Foley, who would end up singing “Paradise by a Dashboard Light” with him on the Bat Out of Hell album.
After the Lampoon show ended, Meat Loaf and Steinman concentrated on getting a record deal. They were rejected by every record company they approached. The record didn’t fit into any of the molds that record companies insisted that every album and artist should fit into. While doing this, Epic asked Meat Loaf to replace Ted Nugent’s lead singer, Derek St. Holmes, on Nugent’s album, Free For All. Finally, they performed the songs for Todd Rundgren who decided to produce the album. In addition to producing the album, Rundgren played lead guitar on several songs. They shopped the record around but still had no takers until Cleveland International Records decided to take a chance. On October 21, 1977, "Bat Out of Hell" was released.
His first gig in support of the record was opening for Cheap Trick in Chicago, Illinois. The audience started out hostile, but by the end of the show he had mostly won them over. Their next stop came a couple of days after the release of the album in New Jersey. The show was a complete sell out and people were lined up to see it hours before it started. Things really started to take off after Meat Loaf appeared on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest on March 25, 1978. The huge success of the album caused a rift to open up between Meat Loaf and Steinman, who started to resent the attention that Meat Loaf was getting.
During a May show in Ottawa, Meat Loaf fell off the stage and broke his leg. The injury caused the cancellation of the rest of the tour. To deal with all of the pressure, he started to do cocaine. It all culminated with a nervous breakdown where he threatened to commit suicide by jumping off the ledge of a building in New York. Then in December of 1978, he went to Woodstock to work on Bad for Good with Steinman. It was at the Bearsville studio that Meat Loaf met his future wife, Leslie Edmonds. They met and were married within a month. Leslie had a daughter from a previous marriage, Pearl, who has followed in her step-father’s footsteps and become a singer. In the middle of recording his second album, Meat Loaf lost the ability to sing. His doctors said that physically everything was fine and that his problem was mental. Steinman decided to keep going with Bad for Good without Meat Loaf.
Just as it looked like life was going down the tubes for Meat Loaf, he managed to get the part of Travis Redfish in Roadie. The movie had cameos by Debbie Harry, Roy Orbison and Hank Williams, Jr., but still was a box office flop. To keep his sanity, Meat Loaf played a tremendous amount of softball. Over time, Meat Loaf got his singing voice back by getting off drugs, playing softball and time.
In 1980, Meat Loaf got back in the studio and started working on Dead Ringer. Steinman wrote all of the songs, but had nothing else to do with the album. At the time his agent, David Sonenberg, brought in Al Dellentash to help manage Meat Loaf’s career. The tour they planned to support the album was cancelled after one show because they ran out of the money that the studio advanced them. Sonenberg and Dellentash also convinced Sony Records and CBS and to advance more money for the making of Dead Ringer, the movie. Dellentash and Sonenberg spent the money on extravagant furnishings for their office and personal chefs. The movie was shown at the Toronto Film Festival and got some good reviews, but then Dellentash and Sonenberg re-edited the movie and it was a disaster.
In 1981, Leslie gave birth to Amanda Aday, now a television actress. Also in 1981, Meat Loaf changed managers after finding out that Dellentash and Sonenberg were stealing his money. Things got really nasty when they had all of Meat Loaf’s assets frozen and sued him for breach of contract. They also started spreading rumors about how Meat Loaf was violent and had threatened people with guns. Meat Loaf ended up declaring bankruptcy. In 1983, he released the self written Midnight at the Lost and Found. Meat Loaf, a self-admitted bad song writer, didn’t even like the songs he had written.
In 1984, Meat Loaf went to England, to record Bad Attitude. Despite a duet with Roger Daltrey, the album was rushed and fell apart. During the tour to support the album, Leslie had a nervous breakdown and had to check into Silver Hill rehab facility in Connecticut. Things finally looked like they were going to turn around in 1986 when Meat Loaf found a new writer, John Parr, and started recording a new album, Blind Before I Stop. Unfortunately, the producer put a dance beat underneath every song, which led to failure.
To get his career back off the ground, Meat Loaf started touring small venues anywhere that would have him. Slowly, he developed a faithful following. Leslie went to travel agent school so they could save on travel expenses. They toured all over the United States, Germany, England, Scandinavia, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Bahrain.
During the Christmas of 1990, Steinman and Meat Loaf reunited and started working on the sequel to Bat Out of Hell. Finally, after almost two years, Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell was finished and became a huge success. It sold over ten million copies, and the single, “’I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” reached number one in over twenty countries. Meat Loaf won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo in 1994 for “I’d Do Anything for Love”. Also in 1994, he was honored by singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (something he says was one of the two biggest highlights of his career).
On November 17, 2003, during a performance at London’s Wembley Arena he collapsed of what was later diagnosed as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The following week he underwent a surgical procedure intended to correct the problem.